Email Automation: The Evolution & Maturity of a 50-year-old Marketing Tool

By Stacey Piper

When I was young, my favorite ride at Disney World was “It’s a Small World.” As much as I loved it, it looks dated and simplistic now, albeit in a nostalgic, familiar way. The song for which the ride is named may be the most played song of all time (especially now that it’s stuck in your head). Coincidentally, the same year that this famous ride was launched in Fantasyland, the first email was sent at ARPANET by Ray Tomlinson, the first step toward making the world smaller by uniting it digitally.

Fifty years later, we’ve evolved from sending a single “electronic” mail to communicate with a single person to mass communication via email marketing, eNewsletters, email blasts, email automation…and the dreaded spam. How do we get back to the good old days of personalized emails while embracing today’s tools and technology to be better marketers and salespeople?

Harnessing both email automation tools and the talent to use them effectively will set you up for measurable success so that marketing efforts can be attributed to the sales effort. This will earn you and your team a seat at the table and make it easier to fight for your share of investment next budget season.

The Time is Right for Email Automation

Does your company focus on demand generation, with key performance indicators around generating leads and scoring them? Wouldn’t it be useful if you could automatically push content based on what content the customer last interacted with, and slowly distribute additional content mapped to the buyer journey?

Email automation is a critical component for any business that wants to optimize its marketing campaigns and reach more customers. The number of emails sent globally per day is projected to hit 347 billion this year, making it essential to have an effective email automation strategy to stand out from the rest. Consumer behavior and expectations have matured with the times.

statistics for email personalization
Sources (left to right): HubSpot, Startup Bonsai, Salesforce, Startup Bonsai.

Has your business kept pace? With the right tools and techniques, email automation can be an excellent way to grow and engage your customer base and drive sales, making sure your emails are opened and read.

Email Automation Delivers the Right Message at the Right Time

Email automation helps to maximize the impact of your marketing campaigns by providing a personalized experience to your customers. You can create emails with personalized messaging and offers based on their behavior, preferences, or purchasing history. You can also save time and effort by creating and scheduling emails that are consistently delivered to your customer’s inbox. This enables your customer to engage with your brand and products even when you are not available to send the email personally.

Key Elements of a Successful Email Automation Strategy

To stand out from the rest:

  1. Ensure that your email is mobile responsive so it can be read easily on any device.
  2. Use the preview text and subject lines wisely to encourage customers to open your email.
  3. Use storytelling and conversational language to entice your audience and build a connection.
  4. Add calls-to-action in your email that align with your business goals and objectives and help in driving sales.
  5. Develop engaging and relevant content based on where your customer is in the journey, then set up nurture flows with drip campaigns—ways to introduce bits of relevant information in a timely manner to push prospects through the sales funnel.
  6. Track the customer’s activity in the email and connect it with other digital activity such as website usage, social media, and gated content to understand the customer’s interests and level of engagement with your brand and services.
  7. Finally, test and optimize your email regularly to improve its effectiveness.

(Download the Email Automation Tip Sheet)

Personalization is King

You’ve heard that content is king. But your world gets smaller when you personalize that content using templates, triggers, and goals.

  • Templates help you customize and structure your email so that it aligns with your marketing strategy.
  • Triggers work to respond to your customers’ behavior or actions, such as welcome emails after sign-up.
  • Goals track your progress and measure success, such as open rates, click rates, and conversion rates.

There are plenty of web-based email marketing tools that are free or near-free for you and your team to use, but over time you will want to upgrade as you mature. What you spend on a tool can save you labor for manual effort on the other side. Not only that, but the stronger tools leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the sequence while in flight. Great starter tools for basic email automation include Mailchimp, Sendinblue, and Constant Contact, while marketing automation software and full life cycle CRM tools such as HubSpot, Salesforce, Marketo, and Eloqua incorporate email automation with sophisticated integration across your marketing and sales ecosystem, both digital and offline.

Email automation is here to stay, and it continues to be an effective way to help businesses reach more customers. With personalization and customization techniques, email automation will help businesses to maximize the impact of their marketing campaigns. A well-designed email with mobile responsiveness, compelling subject lines, and calls-to-action will help draw consumers in and encourage engagement. Avoiding mistakes and consistently optimizing your emails will help you create the perfect email automation strategy that can help your business grow and compete in today’s competitive marketplace.

I’m inspired to see how email marketing has advanced over the course of my career (somewhat less than fifty years). And I’m equally excited to experience (as a consumer) and adopt (as a marketer) the innovations that are sure to come online in the next fifty years of email marketing. Learn more about email marketing in Government Marketing Best Practices 2.0: What You Need to Know for Accelerated Success, one of GovBrew’s top govcon books.


Ready to automate your email campaigns or improve email performance? Contact me for a consultation with your leadership team.

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